Dr. Lee Forester of the Hope College German faculty is hoping to revolutionize the way computers are used in foreign language instruction.
Forester is the developer and lead coordinator of
"Germany: Live!," a collaborative effort to develop
computer-based, multi-media teaching materials for first-
year German courses at the college level. The project
recently received $50,000 through the Foundation for
Independent Higher Education's 1998 "Ameritech Distance
Collaboration Grants" Program.
Forester believes that students learn a language
more effectively when they not only study the words and
rules of grammar involved, but also experience the
language's cultural context. He hopes to exploit the
computer's ability to blend audio, visuals and the written
word, to give students the next best thing to being there.
"Multi-media has tremendous potential to deliver
experiential learning because it engages more of the senses,
but it hasn't been fully exploited yet because people are
thinking in terms of other media," said Forester, who is an
associate professor of German.
"I want to hit every part of the brain that I
can," he said. "Because you learn better when you engage
Forester even hopes, for example, to include
typical background sounds, such as those found in a German
downtown, to help provide as complete a sense of the setting
as possible. His aim is to help students view language
study not as an end, but as a tool for communicating in and
understanding another country.
"This is going to be a culture course designed as
a language course," he said. "Because the two cannot be
separated, in my opinion."
In addition to Hope, the participating schools are
Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Taylor University in Upland,
Ind., and Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill.
The four schools will provide insights into the
general design and content that should be pursued, and will
also help test the initial modules. Technical expertise
will be provided by David Antoniuk of Archview Media in
The recently-received grant will provide support
as the team develops the first prototypical modules in what
Forester hopes will become a set of 80 to 100, available on
CD-ROM or DVD. The package will be intended to serve as the
students' textbook outside of class.
Work will begin in earnest during the forthcoming
spring semester, while Forester is on a sabbatical leave.
He and Antoniuk will spend about six weeks in Germany
collecting authentic language learning materials through
photography, videotaping, audio recording and writing
Forester plans to have the initial two modules
completed by October of 1999. He hopes to complete the
remainder within two years.